By Bob Allen
The Mississippi Supreme Court has reversed 10 of the 13 counts of a traveling Southern Baptist evangelist convicted three years ago of video voyeurism.
Sam Nuckolls, a former youth camp pastor for LifeWay Christian Resources, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012 for making secret videos of 13 women taking showers in his home in Olive Branch, Miss., between June 2007 and October 2011.
The Supreme Court ruled Dec. 10 that law enforcement failed to prove that 10 of 11 videos found copied on a laptop computer seized from Nuckolls were reproduced within the jurisdiction of DeSoto County Judge Gerald Chatham, who decided the sentence based on stipulated facts in September 2012.
Prosecutors conceded that most of the videos were filmed prior to the window for arrest afforded by the statute of limitations but argued that later copying them to a new computer constituted an unlawful “reproduction” of the material. Defense countered that the copying could have been done anywhere, making it impossible to determine if crimes prosecuted in DeSoto County were committed in that jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court upheld one of the appealed sentences, saying a video made in Olive Branch ending with Nuckolls shown possessing a silver laptop consistent with the Apple MacBook Pro he purchased Jan. 5, 2011, was enough to reasonably infer the recording was made after that date.
Nuckolls did not appeal two counts of surreptitious recordings that occurred within the statute of limitations on Oct. 14 and Oct. 19, 2011. Judge Chatham sentenced Nuckolls to consecutive five-year prison sentences for those charges, with all the remaining five-year sentences running concurrently to his time in jail.
Nuckolls secretly recorded women ranging in age from 17 to 26 at two different residences in Olive Branch. Most were friends or acquaintances, including wives of ministerial colleagues.
Nuckolls was first arrested in Gosnell, Ark., after a woman who lived in the house where Nuckolls was staying while in town to preach a revival found a spy pen in her bathroom that contained video of her inside the bathroom.
Nuckolls pleaded guilty in Arkansas in exchange for five years of probation. Similar allegations investigated in Texas were outside the window of the state’s three-year statute of limitations. He was also investigated in Virginia, where video voyeurism is a misdemeanor.
Once a popular itinerant preacher speaking before up to 100 churches or groups a year, the Southern Baptist Convention publishing house hired Nuckolls to serve in the role of a camp pastor at Ridgecrest, N.C., from 2003 to 2006. In 2007 his role changed to a contract speaker at general assemblies and large gatherings.
After his release from prison Nuckolls must register as a sex offender and undergo treatment and monitoring for another 10 years.